Israel could close Ben-Gurion Airport for leisure travel if cases of the virus continue to rise, according to a TV report on Sunday.

According to data from the Ministry of Health, around 10% of cases of the virus in recent weeks are people arriving from abroad.

According to Channel 12 News, health officials plan to immediately require all returnees to self-isolate for seven days upon arrival, instead of the current 24-hour quarantine required for those arriving from countries that are not. not considered to have high infection rates.

Additional measures taken into account for travelers expand the list of countries to which Israelis are banned from flying and allow travel only for those who are vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19, according to the report.

The network said officials were considering shutting down the airport completely for all non-essential travel if cases continued to rise. But he added that this would not happen immediately and that Israeli travelers would have enough time to prepare if such a decision was ultimately made.

Some 22,000 travelers left Ben-Gurion Airport on Sunday, apparently ignoring the Prime Minister’s call not to fly amid the resurgence of COVID-19 in Israel and around the world.

Travelers at Ben-Gurion International Airport on June 30, 2021, heading for COVID-19 tests. (Nati Shohat / FLASH90)

Crowds at the airport arrived just two days after the restrictions went into effect, requiring all passengers to self-isolate for 24 hours upon arrival, and the list of countries to which Israelis are banned from flying has been added. update with more nations.

“I think people are tired of staying at home, tired of these restrictions, and people have lost their fear a little. We think this is all behind us, ”said a passenger waiting in one of the massive queues at the Ynet news site.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett last week recommended that Israelis cancel their summer trips abroad. “Soon the whole world will turn ‘red’ and your trip will be canceled anyway, so don’t even book,” he said.

Starting Friday, those returning from 15 countries known to have high infection rates will be required to quarantine themselves for seven full days with a negative test result, according to updated ministry guidelines. The full quarantine period has recently been shortened from the previous 10-14 days.

Countries considered to have high infection rates are United Arab Emirates, Seychelles, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Bolivia, Guatemala, Honduras, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia, Paraguay, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica and Tunisia.

From Friday July 23, the following countries will be added to the list: United Kingdom, Cyprus, Turkey, Georgia, Uganda, Myanmar, Fiji, Panama, Cambodia, Kenya and Liberia.

The number of Israelis traveling abroad is generally expected to increase further in August, if the airport is not closed by then.

Health Ministry Director General Nachman Ash on Sunday issued another appeal to Israelis to avoid traveling abroad for their summer vacation, noting that coronavirus cases are on the rise in many countries.

“Now is not the time to fly overseas,” Ash said at a press briefing. He added that his office was examining ways to limit thefts, without giving further details.

The new Director General of the Ministry of Health, Nachman Ash, at the Ministry of Health in Jerusalem on July 13, 2021. (Flash90)

Also from next Friday, Spain and Kyrgyzstan will be added to the list of countries with extreme infection rates, to which Israelis cannot fly, provided a government committee approves the ministry’s request.

The countries currently off limits to Israelis are Uzbekistan, Argentina, Belarus, Brazil, South Africa, India, Mexico and Russia.

Israelis entering the country after visiting one of these countries may face a fine of 5,000 NIS ($ 1,500) and will also be required to enter quarantine until they receive a valid negative test.

Figures from the Ministry of Health showed 430 new cases were confirmed on Saturday. It happened after daily infections surpassed 1,100 on Friday. As of Sunday afternoon, 515 additional cases were identified.

Of the 32,669 tests carried out on Saturday, 1.47% came back positive – a rate similar to that seen in recent days.

There are 6,598 cases of the active virus in the country, according to data from the Ministry of Health, while the death toll stood at 6,448. The number of severe cases was 61.

Health officials have linked the recent spike in infections in Israel to travelers who brought new variants of the virus from overseas and failed to properly self-quarantine after arriving.

The resurgence of the coronavirus in Israel has been largely attributed to the spread of the Delta variant, which was first detected in India and is believed to be twice as contagious as the original COVID strain.

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